Serena Williams‘ pregnancy plan is an example for Black mothers everywhere……
In August 2022, Serena Williams’ essay in Vogue affirmed: “…if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter,” said the superstar athlete.
Serena wrote this piece as her farewell to tennis, her love, her career, and what she devoted the majority of her life to. The ache in her words is tangible; love and pain are embedded in them. “Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labour of expanding our family,” she said.
Yet Serena later writes, “The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense…I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice—though it’s one I enjoyed making.”
Now, almost a year later, the ‘MET gala pregnancy reveal’ is a victory.
The pressures surrounding modern-day motherhood often force moms into roles that demand all of them, all at once. It’s not enough to simply be a mom, which can be one of the most fulfilling and challenging roles a person can fulfill.
A mother is her child’s first home, their first love, their first teacher. It can be demanding, frustrating, joyful, and deeply rewarding. But often mothers also have to be cogs in a machine-like work culture, rather than human beings. They aren’t given the vacation days they need or the time for doctors’ appointments.
Serena, herself, said in her farewell piece: “I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression.”
I lament the conditions of our work-centric society that would make a mother feel that she must work while recovering from birth, through postpartum depression, and all that comes with it. Stepping away from this kind of culture is surely a win.
It is a work culture that affords the average mother only 10 weeks of maternity leave. It is a culture that is ignoring the maternal health crisis and doesn’t value paid parental leave.
Moms are often back to work in even less time, still bleeding, still aching, and having to pump in bathroom stalls. It shows mothers that we don’t value them.
Then there are expectations around Black mothers. For generations, Black mothers couldn’t choose their families and were forced to work. The legacy of that time in history still impacts motherhood for so many.
Black mothers are expected to be superhuman, to live their lives dedicated to others, and work tirelessly while contending with stereotypes. Over 80% of Black mothers are sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in their households; more than any other racial group of mothers. Black mothers’ income is vital to our families’ economic security, all while earning a fraction of our white counterparts.
Black women aren’t too often afforded the opportunity to choose our families over our work. That’s why Serena’s decision matters.
She was presented with a toxic and biased work culture, the devaluation of Black motherhood, and the maternal health crisis and she chose her family.
Historically, Black mothers have not been able to choose their families over work. But it’s something more Black mothers deserve the chance to do. It’s something I want to do; to prioritize growing my family over a work culture that may dehumanize and degrade me.